Reel Rock Film Festival inspires climbers to have own adventures

Utah Valley rock climbers and climbing enthusiasts gather at a UVU auditorium on Oct. 31, 2016, to watch Reel Rock Film Festival’s 11th annual rock climbing films. Utah Valley has hosted the event every year in part because of the location’s unique climbing scene. (Jessica Olsen)

Two climbers stood on a sheer, snowy cliff, storm-clouds gathering in the distance as wind picked up. One climber squinted and looked at the camera.

“There are optimists, there are pessimists and there are idiots,” the climber said. “And frozen people.”

Such are the jests and scenes at this year’s Reel Rock Festival, which showcases the year’s top rock-climbing exploration and adventure videos.

Utah Valley climbers and climbing enthusiasts gathered at UVU for the 11th annual event on Oct. 31, 2016, watching films about record-breaking, 14-year-old rock climber Ashima, “rad dad” explorer and father Mike Libeck and the rollicking musical journey of the frozen “idiots” on Dodo’s Delight in the Arctic circle.

Darren Knezek is the owner of Mountain Works and presents the event every year. Knezek said Reel Rock Film Festival visited Utah from the very beginning.

“Our store (Mountain Works) is really famous for putting up all the routes in the area,” Knezek said. “So when the very first Reel Rock came out, I knew all the guys who did it. They were all my friends.”

Reel Rock approached Knezek and asked to come to Utah Valley before anyone else knew about the festival because of Knezek’s reputation. Knezek is known for being the first to “discover,” or set up climbing routes, in Maple Canyon.

“We started full on canyons, like Joe’s Valley, Maple Canyon, Santaquin Canyon,” Knezek said. “Myself alone, I’ve put up 300 routes in Rock Canyon.”

For Knezek, Utah Valley is the perfect place to hold a film festival like Reel Rock, especially because of the area’s unique climbing community. Knezek said unlike many climbing areas, Utah Valley’s climbers are kind and inviting. Because of the routes Mountain Works and others have set up, the area isn’t as crowded as other popular climbing places.

The film festival was crowded though, and people filled the auditorium. BYU student and rock climber Gavin Smith attended the event.

“It’s inspiring, seeing people going to the maximum,” Smith said.

Smith came with his friend Andrew Gabel, another BYU student who said he was equally inspired by the films.

“It motivates me for what I know is possible,” Gabel said.

Knezek said the films are inspiring and motivating to rock climbers and non-rock climbers alike.

“These movies get you all excited to go out and have your own adventure,” Knezek said. “And here, you can do it and it’s just a five-minute drive.”

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